Etzebeth will make the move from Toulon to the Sharks at the end of the current European season, having expressed a desire to return to South Africa and rejoin several Springbok teammates at the Durban-based franchise.
Earlier this month, Toulon released a statement on Sunday to reveal that the powerful lock has indeed “expressed the wish to put an early end to the contract binding him to Toulon in order to return, for personal reasons, to South Africa”.
Etzebeth’s move comes not long after Toulon president Bernard Lemaître described Etzebeth as a “handicap” to the club because he is expensive and often unavailable.
Now, in an interview with French publication Midi Olympique, iconic Bok lock Bakkies Botha has suggested it was “disappointing” that Toulon never got to see the best of Etzebeth.
“Eben Etzebeth? Incredible fighter, best second row in the world,” Botha told Midi Olympique. “But I regret that he only shows his best face with the Springboks. In Toulon, he is still a little injured, concussed and in the end, never plays.
“Obviously, he was not made for France and he will turn his back on the problems the club went through to return to South Africa.
“It’s disappointing. I love Eben, I repeat. But you can’t say when you arrive in Toulon: ‘I want to be champion of France’ and leave some time later without having marked the club in one way or another.
“His first season was not bad but it is not enough. When you recruit a world-class player, it’s for him to make a difference.”
Etzebeth may have grown disillusioned at Toulon
In a wide-ranging interview with newspaper Var-matin, Lemaître explained the issues the club faces in terms of player recruitment ahead of the upcoming 2022/2023 season, and quite bizarrely took a swipe at Etzebeth and Argentinian Facundo Isa.
Etzebeth joined the French club in a high-profile, big-money move in 2019, and Lemaître suggested they weren’t getting bang for their buck.
“There is a double problem in recruiting: the Salary Cap and the JIFFs. You can’t do just anything, so I pay special attention to the situation of internationals because they can be an opportunity or a handicap. In this case, players like Eben Etzebeth and Facundo Isa are a clear handicap for the club.
“The policy of the XV of France is very clear and we know that some players like Gros or Villière will be called up regularly. While for foreigners it is different. I spoke with Bernard Laporte who agrees with me: the League should work with World Rugby to prevent foreign countries from coming to the Top 14 supermarket to take the players they need for their selection.
“Or, if they do, there should be some compensation. These players get paid, cost the club full, and are used by someone else. This, even at the level of labor law, does not exist. There is a problem to be resolved.”
Towards the end of last year, Toulon announced that Etzebeth will be forced to spend a three-month period out of action due to the latest concussion he suffered while playing for the Boks against England.
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